Leaving the TV on – Observations

Since 2005 when my first long stay in Brazil started, I’ve noticed more than a few common threads that unite the people of Brazil. One of those is leaving the TV on when no one is watching it.

I never understood this peculiarity though. Is the extra noise like a nightlight to a child, like a mothers home cooked meal or a favorite corner of the house to read a book? What I mean by that is, is it a comfort thing?

Is the TV here just as nice to watch as it is to hear? Was the radio left on all the time before the TV was introduced to Brazil?

The other interesting thing is that some families unplug the electronics when they are not using them as a way to save energy or a superstition that says energy is being used even if the device is turned off (well, modern electronics do have a power save mode so when you turn it off, it just goes into hibernate). So this brings me to deduce that leaving the TV on while at home is considered a fair use of said device.

Any thoughts?


14 thoughts on “Leaving the TV on – Observations

  1. They also unplug appliances to protect against lightning strikes. I have no idea if that works, but catch myself unplugging appliances as well.

    Aaaah, the TV on all the time………….. it is a noisy thing. Brazilians love their noisy. It is something I haven’t gotten used to in over 20 years. Drives me crazy.

    I complained to a Brazilian friend once about how noisy the city was. He replied, “That is the sound of progress.” Just smiled and said “Sure a lot of noisy for so little progress.”

    Most of the world is noisy so guess you just have to live with it or find yourself an isolated cave somewhere.


    • Hi Gene,

      Yeah, I was going to mention how much of a noise-lover that the average Brazilian is but thought Id see if someone had a different explanation. I actually Im a pretty silent person and I like relative silence so there are times when I need to communicate this to people.

  2. growing up my father would never let us leave the TV on when we weren’t in the room, and would unplug everything to save energy.

    here in brazil though, i have caught my roommate cooking in the kitchen and leaving the tv on in the living room. my boyfriend’s family also has 5 TVs at home!! one in each bedroom, one in the kitchen, and one in the living room! I think it’s insane that they constantly need a TV on – and theirs being a loud italian family, it’s funny to hear his mom yell from her bedroom telling us to turn to a certain channel, lol.

    i guess it is a noise thing. brazilians always need noise around them. i worked at an ad agency in the US that was SUPER silent and here in brazil, the agency i work at is as loud as a FEIRA all day.

    • Hi Poly,

      Yeah, TV really bombou in Brazil. Personally, I think its revolting thus why I dont have nor want a TV ever. Its complete mind numbing indoctrination and one has to unplug the TV for long enough to even begin to consider such indoctrination and its effects but I fear its a lost cause for the masses.

  3. I agree with you. It is indeed a common thing in Brazil. I grew up doing the same. I have no idea why we do that. I don’t do it here in the US. I often turn the TV off here for some quiet time. But every time I go to Brazil, I catch myself doing that again (turning and leaving it on). I guess now I do it just so that I can hear some more Portuguese and feel at home. Saudade, my friend. We can’t explain or even translate it. :)

  4. Hi , I just found your blog, Im Brazilian ( sorry about my English, still improving it). So, I dont know why we need the TV on , I juts realized that sometimes we get home and turn the TV on just to TALK, we are not watching , we’re talking or eating or anything else, but we always turn on TV. I have a really big family and we are so loud , usually everybody starts talk at the same time and TV is on , is terrible, LOL ! Its so noisy , I go crazy , even Im being Brazilian …Now im in USA and im glad I dont miss turn Tv on , even because i dont have one in my bedroom ( cause Im sure if i have it would be on all the time), in my house in BRazil we have 5 Tv, even the kitchen has one. Here, in USA we have just one ! Its funny …the differences..

  5. We have come to unplug electronics when not in use because we have lost a DVD player and an iPod stereo player to power surges. Also – the big flat screen TV is a power HOG even when not turned on.

    The noise of the TV on constantly drives me crazy! My mother in law will turn on the television in her kitchen and then not be in the kitchen for most of the day. If I turn it off she somehow notices the quiet and returns to the kitchen to turn it on. What makes it even worse is that the very old television operating without a cable hookup is constantly crackling with sound distortion.

  6. Wow! That is very strange!! I never realized Brazilians did that. Here at home my dad always complains when there is no one in the living room and the TV is on. We never unplug appliances either. One thing I notice is the computer on when there is no one using. It bothers me. Some people even leave the house and leave it open, not downloading or anything.

  7. I have been thinking a lot about that lately – one of my best friends here in New Mexico leaves the TV full time on and this is something that shocks me (she has two little boys and she lives it on even when I visit for a playdate with my girl). The bottom line is: maybe certain groups in Brazil do that and some groups in the US do the same. My own experience is similar to Fabio’s – only a couple of hours of tv were allowed a day.
    And about disconnecting the equipments – they still spend energy when they hibernate, maybe 10%.

  8. I’m American by all means, I just happen to be very interested in Brazil.

    Thus I think this is quite funny! This absolutely describes me. I have the TV on pretty much from the moment I turn it on to watch (and often I will watch maybe 30 seconds of it before going off to do something else) and then turn the TV off when it’s bedtime. Yes, there is a certain comfort in having that constant noise. Conversely, I hate having the TV on at night when it is dark, esp. if I am alone. I also unplug appliances all the time, ie. cell-phone chargers. So it’s definitely not a Brazilian thing exclusively, but it is funny that it such a “macro-habit” down in Brazil.

  9. Hi man.As a brazilian I must say that I dislike certain noises(like that Beyoncé parody and others from Pará, carro de som and many others,especially the Casas Bahia propaganda-it’s REALLY noisty).But about the TV,it’s useful for example when a person is in a room with no TV but he/she wants to listen to what’s on.And also for us not to feel so..alone sometimes and it’s not an only brazilian particularity,I guess.

  10. I don’t think its a Brazilian particularity, either, but I have noticed and heard about this comforting background TV noise from people from South America before, especially with small TVs in the kitchen.

    Living alone as a student in the US, I would often turn on either the TV or some music as soon as I got home in the evening, and leave it on while I cooked and ate dinner. It was nice to have that background noise, I suppose, but I honestly think it was a distracting habit that I picked up when I was a kid. Now I am living overseas and, after spending a year or so using TV to study the language and culture, I have unplugged my TV and stick to music and books.

  11. It may be more common in some countries than others, to leave the tv on all the time. The same applies to radio. There are people who need the distraction and a more informative question centers on how to explain this phenomenon. Very young children can be harmed developmentally by watching tv and before age two they should not watch it at all. Adults use tv to avoid the alternative, thinking. Anecdotally I have noticed that religious people tend to leave the tv on more than non religious people. Also tv use tends to decrease with higher intelligence. There are many more correlations in the psychological literature but a common thread is that tv is a distraction that enables an alternative to thinking. The internet is interactive and requires some thinking but tv drones on and on providing an opiate for the masses.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Mike. You took the thoughts right from my head, thoughts I had because I very rarely watch TV! I hear that these days there is even a toddler TV (station?) for toddlers to have something to occupy their time with. It is quite disturbing. The same applies for movies these days, but I generally expect either the media or gov’t to attempt to give me my opinions, so by having that expectation in the first place, I can think about what sort of ideas they are pushing. Sadly, I’ve read that 87% of the population does no thinking for themselves. On a side note, an alternative phrase for “opiate of the masses” is “placebo of the masses”, which I find interesting to think about as well.

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